ATLANTA — Leading campus ministry at Georgia State University for the past 40 years has been a joy to Teresa Royall, an energetic lady described by her students as a living example of what it means to give your all for the Lord.
Royall has led co-eds on mission trips around the globe, giving them their first glimpses of life in Third World countries. She has counseled countless students, led a never-ending number of Bible studies, cooked meals, wiped tears, and slept on floors with never a complaint.
Now 64, Royall, a Cumming native, is transitioning into semi-retirement and leaving Georgia State, taking with her indelible memories of souls saved and lives changed through her work with Baptist Collegiate Ministries.
Royall opted to retire to spend more time with family but has agreed to stay on in a part-time consulting role to help with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s push to expand BCM to every campus in the state, no matter the size.
Having jumped into campus ministry right after she graduated from North Georgia College in 1980, she is leaving the only full-time job she has ever had.
“I still enjoy college students and collegiate ministry,” she said. “I’m still passionate about that. But there are a lot of needs in our family right now. God has given me peace about leaving, and it will be good to have more time to give my family.”
Meagan Sibley, a Georgia State grad now serving as missions and discipleship director at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, said Royall is going to be missed on the downtown Atlanta campus.
“She’s one of the most generous people I know,” Sibley said. “She gives very personalized care to every student. She would make them feel like they are the only student on campus by the way she cares for them. She does that for everyone. She’s like everyone’s best friend.”
Sibley said she was struggling with direction in her life when she met Royall.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” Sibley said. “God used her to restore my joy and my faith. I wouldn’t be at Cross Pointe except for her. I wouldn’t be the minister I am today without her and her example. She changed my life completely.”
Sibley isn’t alone in heralding Royall’s ministry, which has helped so many students achieve a closer walk with the Lord.
“I have former students who are serving all over the world as missionaries, serving in churches, serving in the marketplace where they’re sharing Christ and making disciples,” Royall said. “As I wrap up, I think about all the lives that have been changed for Christ. That’s a real joy.”
Karen Pace, who has worked with Royall at the Mission Board since 2007, said the retiring campus minister has always been an encourager with her authenticity and commitment to ministry.
“She’s always genuinely interested in what’s going on in people’s lives,” Pace said. “Professionally, thousands of students have been influenced by God through their connection with Teresa, and it overflows from their lives into every place the Lord leads them.”
Pace said Royall’s impact reaches far beyond Georgia’s borders through the international students she has discipled.
“Teresa is about relationships and even through whatever personal trials she may experience, she stands firm in her walk with Jesus and points people to the Living Hope,” Pace said.
In the Mission Board’s BCM expansion, Royall will be involved in enlisting volunteers to start ministries on additional campuses and in developing strategies for international student ministries across the state.
Royall said any success she has had during her long career in campus ministry is attributable to the Lord.
“There are so many times on a practical level where I’ve asked, ‘How did this happen?,” she said. “It has been God. I live in gratitude for what God has done.”
Royall looks back on different seasons in her ministry with satisfaction.
“I was actually younger than some of my students when I first started,” she said. “At that time, I was more of a friend and an encourager. Then, I moved into the role of the older, wiser person who could be able to offer advice and spiritual encouragement. As I aged, I gained more spiritual influence and became a person who students could turn to when dealing with life issues.”
In a sense, Royall became a second mother to students who saw her as a stable, loving, godly person.
“It has been wonderful being able to see students come to faith in Christ and then to recognize the gifts God has given them to serve Him and to disciple others,” she said.
Steven David, now a Georgia State law student, said Royall was impactful not only in his life but also in his mother’s. That’s because Royall was BCM director when David’s mother was at Georgia State and was still there when he arrived.
“When I think about Teresa, I think about decades of faithful ministry,” he said. “Teresa invested in me and helped me grow in my faith. She truly is one of the kindest people I know.”
Sibley said Royall will always be finding ways to help others, no matter what she does in retirement.
“She will continue to minister for the rest of her life,” Sibley said, “because that’s who she is and that is who she will continue to be.”